The Language Skills of East Asian Artists

I started to philosophize about something that might have been revealed by the title of this post, and the reason for it was a video of BIG BANG advertising for something or other. This is not something new, seeing as how they’re often featured in various commercials and since I blog about them perhaps a liiiittle too much BUT this time it’s different. They actually speak in Japanese. It’s not the first time, they actually do it quite a lot, and yet I personally think the result is just hilarious. Why?  T.O.P looks amazingly amused and the others put such emphasis on the words that they just make it even more obvious that they’re not all that comfortable having to speak in the language from the land of the Rising Sun. Still, they did do a solid job and there’s no apparent pronunciation mistakes.

After I watched the video I realized that the video is proof of something that I have thought about from time to time, that Koreans are pretty damn good with languages. The way that they pronounce Korean might be what makes it so easy for them to make other languages sound good with so little effort. I very rarely hear Koreans with awful English or Japanese. Many Koreans actually use their language pronunciation skills to their advantage and produces their albums in countless versions where they sing in different languages, sometimes English, Korean, Japanese AND Chinese! Yet, most of these artists only learn these languages enough to be able to pronounce them correctly and maybe enough phrases to please their fans.
Occasionally though, there are the artists who are fluent or spend time learning the languages well. Off the top of my head I can think of two examples, BoA and 宇多田ヒカル(Utada Hikaru).

BoA rarely sings her songs in English (though she has done it a few times) but she has spent a lot of time learning to speak both Japanese and Chinese. This has expanded her record sales greatly since she can perform just about as well in all three languages.

Utada Hikaru
sings in Japanese and English, and she does it exceptionally well, partly because of her American heritage. She was brought up in America by Japanese parents and then moved to Japan later on, but not until she was already established in the music business through her release of an American album under a different artist name when she was only in her teens. When she came to Japan she started anew under the name Utada Hikaru and started to sings mainly in Japanese.
She made a HUGE success in Asia and internationally as well (to an extent) and then she returned to America in order to release new albums in English under the name of UTADA. Whew. I can barely even grasp the amount of work artists has to put in. I don’t think this phenomena is occurs as often in Western society. Why is that? I think all artists could benefit from learning multiple languages so that they can reach a wider audience. Although, sometimes it’s better to just stick to what one knows best. This is probably the reason why the expression Engrish was invented… After all, confusing “L” and “R” doesn’t sound too good when it comes to English. This very phenomena has caused my name to take on some pretty strange meanings, and I distinctly remember my Chinese teacher laughing at me because of this. Good thing I love food, since the meaning for Sara in Chinese is salad, and it also means plate in Japanese. Perfect.

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2 Responses to The Language Skills of East Asian Artists

  1. seoulawesome says:

    I think ayumi hamasaki can speak english pretty well too.
    for chinese singers, those who have studies aboard in usa, canada etc and those chinese singers who are from singapore can speak english too!

    • Hanakiyo says:

      Yes, that’s true, she does! Yep, there are always some who really stand out but Fahrenheit for example (my favourite Chinese group) are pretty awful at both English and Japanese D: It’s really too bad, they could go far if they just learned it properly! I should google for artists that have studied abroad. I know that the singer in ELLEGARDEN did and I also know of others (like Utada) that have grown up in English speaking countries as well :3

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